Friday, December 29, 2006

Day 13 - Dragon's Pearl II

John attempts to warm himself over the toaster at breakfast...

Our humble homely cabin

We woke to the sounds of other boats pulling away. It was an overcast chilly day - a perfect day to be inside. This was a good thing. First item on the itinerary today was a visit to the Amazing Cave. Well, I have to say, cynic that I am, that I was quite prepared to be less than impressed.

It took ages to dock our immense vessel as smaller, less cumbersome boats nipped in to the dock ahead of us. We finally emerged and climbed the steps to the entrance. Sure enough, we entered a small-ish and much molested cave complete with graffiti. It was amazing the amount of stuff that had been destroyed by wandering souvenir-hunters over the years. It almost made me weep when you considered the millenia it took to form the stuff in the first place. The only consolation was that they'd installed some pretty lights... (click to enlarge pics)

But then we moved on...

and on...

and in the end, I was very impressed indeed. Not by the intricacy so much as by the sheer scale. It really was well worth a visit.

At the exit of the cave with the bay and boats behind us.

Most of us on the boat retreated down below decks until lunch. Sheena did her best to brave it, writing postcards up above.

By lunch, we'd figured out where the vast bulk of the $100 per person we'd paid had gone and it wasn't on the trip itself. It was on the food. The lunch buffet was great. We'd wondered why we hadn't had the luxury of a buffet before after we'd sat through interminably long courses twice before. Someone in the kitchen though obviously had too much time on their hands...

I shouldn't mock it. It was the only glimpse of a junk's sails we'd had on this boat!

By the time we were finishing lunch, we were arriving at the dock. They really rushed us off, quite forcefully evicting us from our cabins mid tooth brushing which wasn't nice at all. The Vietnamese can be really pushy when they want to be (like when people invade their country and so on) and we were getting pretty fed up with this after our tenth day.

The ride back to Hanoi took forever and wasn't worth describing. We'd found ourselves a much cheaper and nicer hotel option close to where we were dropped off. We had a nice meal in a restaurant nearby at the Bamboo Hotel (which interior isn't worth the time to describe - you can guess right?).

Sitting next to our table was a young man, obviously an East Asian tourist, poring over a guidebook. We didn't realise he was Korean until his fried rice came. He then promptly whipped out what looked like a toothpaste tube and covered his meal with red chilli paste. I guess it's the equivalent of us carrying tomato sauce with us and slapping that on everything. It makes you wonder why people bother to leave their countries sometimes!

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